Are Dental Cleanings with Anesthesia Safe for My Pet?

Dental health is vital for our furry companions, and regular dental cleanings play a crucial role in maintaining their overall well-being. However, the topic of pet dental cleanings with anesthesia often sparks concern among pet owners. The primary reason clients choose to forgo dental procedures for their pets is typically due to apprehension or concerns regarding anesthesia. In this blog post, we will explore the safety considerations, benefits, and potential risks associated with pet dental cleanings with anesthesia. 

Understanding Your Pet’s Oral Hygiene 

Oral hygiene is more than just fresh breath for our canine and feline friends. Regular dental cleanings help prevent a range of dental issues, including plaque buildup, tartar accumulation, gum disease, and tooth loss. These conditions can lead to pain, difficulty eating, and even systemic health problems. Therefore, it is essential to prioritize dental care as part of our pet’s overall health maintenance.  

Dental cleanings typically involve a thorough examination including dental X-rays, scaling above and below the gumline, polishing, and potential extractions if necessary. To perform these procedures effectively and comfortably, pets require general anesthesia. Anesthesia ensures the pet remains still, allowing the veterinary team to work efficiently without causing undue stress or pain to the animal.  

Benefits of Anesthesia in Pet Dental Cleanings  

Pain Management: Anesthesia ensures that pets do not experience pain during dental procedures. It keeps them calm, reduces anxiety, and prevents unnecessary movement that could lead to accidental injury.  

Optimal Cleaning: Anesthesia enables the veterinary team to perform a thorough dental cleaning, including scaling below the gum line and probing for any underlying issues that may not be visible otherwise.  

Accurate Diagnosis: Since more than half of the tooth is not visible to the naked eye, X-rays are necessary to examine the roots and surrounding tissues that support the teeth. This enables detection of any hidden pathology that cannot be seen without diagnostic imaging. By utilizing anesthesia, it becomes possible to safely position the sensor within a pet’s mouth, thereby ensuring the acquisition of high-quality images.  

Safety and Precision: Anesthesia allows for precise control of the Pet’s airway, heart rate, blood pressure and other vital signs during the procedure. It ensures the safety of both the patient and the veterinary staff.  

Risks and Safety Considerations While anesthesia is generally safe, it is crucial to address the potential risks and safety considerations associated with pet dental cleanings.  

Pre-Anesthetic Evaluation: A comprehensive pre-anesthetic evaluation is essential to assess the Pet’s overall health and identify any underlying conditions that may increase the anesthesia risk. This evaluation will include a thorough physical examination performed by a veterinarian, blood work, and sometimes additional tests will be needed. The veterinarian will recommend additional testing as indicated by the patient’s overall health. It may include specialized blood or urine tests, X-rays, or a cardiac evaluation.  

Proper Anesthesia Administration: Anesthesia should be administered by trained professionals who closely monitor the Pet’s vital signs throughout the procedure. Anesthetic drugs are carefully selected based on the Pet’s size, age, breed, health status, and the procedure being performed.  

Possible Side Effects: Although rare, side effects like allergic reactions or adverse drug reactions can occur during anesthesia. However, vigilant monitoring significantly reduces the risk of complications.  

Recovery and Post-Procedure Care: After the dental cleaning, Pets require a smooth and monitored recovery. The veterinary team ensures proper pain management, and pet owners are given instructions for post-procedure care and any necessary medications.  

Non-Anesthetic Dental Cleanings  

When non-anesthesia dental (NAD) procedures are conducted, pet owners may mistakenly believe that their pets experienced minimal stress during restraint, effective pain management was provided, and accurate diagnosis and treatment of oral disease were accomplished. The most frequently recommended and performed treatment for periodontal disease is the removal of plaque and calculus, which necessitates cleaning the subgingival surfaces. This procedure can be uncomfortable and, at times, painful for the patient. Merely removing supragingival calculus serves a purely cosmetic purpose and does not effectively treat the underlying disease. However, these necessary treatment processes cannot be carried out on a conscious dog or cat. Without the administration of general anesthesia, an accurate diagnosis cannot be established, patient pain cannot be alleviated, the patient’s airway cannot be protected from aspiration, and the disease cannot be appropriately treated.  

Patients who undergo NAD may unknowingly endure prolonged periods with untreated disease, resulting in escalated health issues (such as disease progression and pain) and increased financial burdens for the pet owner. In the most recent “Dental Care Guideline for Dogs and Cats” published by AAHA in 2019 the anesthesia-free dentistry is thoroughly addressed. Expert consensus and published evidence overwhelmingly endorse the utilization of general anesthesia for dental procedures. The notion of “anesthesia-free” dentistry lacks evidence demonstrating its safety or effectiveness in achieving thorough supra- and subgingival cleaning of teeth. Consequently, it is deemed unacceptable as an alternative to dental care performed on an anesthetized patient.  

In conclusion, pet dental cleanings with anesthesia are generally safe and essential for maintaining optimal dental health. While there are risks associated with anesthesia, these are minimized by conducting a thorough pre-anesthetic evaluation, using proper administration techniques, and closely monitoring the pet throughout the procedure. With appropriate care and attention, dental cleanings can help prevent dental issues and improve the overall well-being of our beloved four-legged companions. Always consult with a trusted veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your pet’s dental health.